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Showing posts from March, 2014

Guest post: Tony Benn: Myth and Reality

TONY BENN: MYTH AND REALITY  A guest post by Phil Larkin Introduction Few can have missed the passing on of Anthony Neil Wedgewood-Benn (commonly known from around 1972 by his self-created title “Tony Benn”) last week. Over the last decade and beyond, ever since he stepped down as an MP in 2001, he had gained the reputation for himself as the kindly old sage of the British left, puffing his pipe, drinking large mugs of tea, appearing on stage at Glastonbury and providing stirring orations at ‘Stop the War’ Campaigns (in whatever corner of the world war happened to be taking place). He was sort of a sanitised, grandfatherly George Galloway, with far superior manners and courtesy. My main and abiding memory of him before his death was the very funny (and revealing) spoof interview which he did with Ali G: apparently he had jumped at the chance to explain the idea of socialism to young people when offered the interview (of which more below). I also recall him shepherding Gerry Adams and Mar…

Ukraine - pulling at the seams of a fragile state

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Lenin stands watch in central Simferopol
It’s been an unsettling experience watching the crisis in Ukraine and Crimea unfold, over the past few months. 
During the summer I visited some of the places which are now attracting headlines.  Independence Square in Kiev, or ‘Euromaidan’ as it has become known, was full of locals and tourists enjoying the sunshine; eating ice-cream, posing for sketch artists and splashing in the fountains.  More recently it resembled the set of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie, with barricades, charred monuments and heaps of smouldering tyres.
Crimea was laid-back in the July heat.  Teenagers skateboarded beside the Crimean Rada in Simferopol, which appeared on TV screens a few weeks ago being ‘stormed’ by armed men.  The regional capital’s airport was busy with tourists heading to and from Russia or Kiev.  It was one of the first strategic targets to be seized by Russian troops, or local militia, depending upon whose word you rely, as the emergency deepened…